NASA has discovered a wave of hot gas rolling through a faraway galaxy – and say it is gigantic.
Spanning some 200,000 light-years, the wave is about twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy, and was spotted in the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster.
The researchers say the wave formed billions of years ago, after a small galaxy cluster grazed Perseus and caused its vast supply of gas to slosh around an enormous volume of space.
The find was made using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory researchers combined with radio observations and computer simulations.
‘Perseus is one of the most massive nearby clusters and the brightest one in X-rays, so Chandra data provide us with unparalleled detail,’ said lead scientist Stephen Walker at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
‘The wave we’ve identified is associated with the flyby of a smaller cluster, which shows that the merger activity that produced these giant structures is still ongoing.’
Galaxy clusters are the largest structures bound by gravity in the universe today.